Monday, January 18, 2021

Trauma Nation (part one)

Back during my college days, I had a friend who was a "philosopher." Who didn't, right? He was, of course, a philosophy major and fancied himself the "last true philosopher." Because no one can be more pompous than a philosophy major. Unless it's Rudy Giuliani. One of my other friends used to say that "The Philosopher" was just shy of being an oxygen thief.

On the one hand, having The Philosopher around often prompted interesting discussions. The Philosopher was, of course, agnostic, because one cannot be a true philosopher and have an actual answer to anything. Not even to your own existence, because, well, who knows, right?

One night, one of these "interesting" conversations led to the The Philosopher declaring that the church had been the greatest force for good throughout history, which prompted the rest of us to... stare. And stare hard. So hard that, eventually, he was all like, "What...?"

Let me make a thing clear, here:
In this group was, of course, me who, at the time, was deep in Christianity. I was a fucking youth pastor, so I was a True Believer and stuck in the ways of converting all of my friends all the time (there were many late night conversations with The Philosopher about his lack of faith).
An atheist.
A Catholic, who loved being Catholic because he could go to church twice a year, do confession, and be considered an excellent Catholic. He also supported bombing abortion clinics because that's what the Catholic church suggested was appropriate without actually saying it (much the way Trump #failedpresident urges his followers to violence).
A couple of Cultural Christians. You know, those people (MOST "christians") whose parents took them to church when they were kids, maybe they got baptised, and who, maybe, go to church every few years for whatever reason and drop $20 in the offering plate, and think they're good. You know, "Once saved, always saved," and all of that. Or they have young kids whom they want indoctrinated the same way they have been.

All of that to say that the statement that the church had been a force for good would have been expected from any of the rest of  us (probably, especially, me (or the Catholic)) other than Atheist.

Ironically, I responded first: What about the Crusades?
[You do know about those, right? When the Catholic church went on a Holy War against Muslims and Jews to take the Holy Land away from the heathens and "return" it to Christians, where it belonged. Except it was really all about a land grab the Catholic church wanted to do because any lands belonging to any of the knights they sent to the Holy Land became the property of the church when they died. Plus loot. Plus weeding out the European nobility. It was a big win/win/win for the church no matter what happened in Jerusalem.]

Then Atheist: And the Holocaust.
[Look, if you don't know about the Holocaust, you have serious educational issues. And if you're a Holocaust denier, you have serious personality issues, starting with extreme racism.]

Then everyone (everyone!) else started naming other evil things "the church" had done over the course of history (Spanish Inquisition, anyway? what about some witch trials?), a conversation which spread out to include religion in general and how, really, religion had been the greatest force for evil and harm throughout history. Because it has. Almost all of the great atrocities in history have been done in the name of some religion or another.

The Philosopher was completely caught off guard and, actually, had to admit that his statement had been foolish. He was, he said, thinking about people like Mother Teresa, individuals who had, because of their faith, done some amount of good in the world. And, yes, it's true that there have been individuals who have, because of their faith, done some good in the world, but it doesn't come anywhere close to balancing the scales against the evil done in the name of "God."

And we haven't even gotten to the individual people who use their "faith" as a reason to inflict abuse upon people who don't believe the same way they do or who do it as way to maintain control over someone else, frequently children and spouses.
-- Like the parents of one of my teenagers when he came out. Oh, if you could have heard the vile things they said about him. Before disowning him.
--Like the Catholic parents who disowned their teen for becoming Protestant, kicking her out of the house with nowhere to go.

Well, I was going to give many examples, but what's the point? They are all over the news all of the time for anyone who wants to see it.

In fact, the huge schism we are suffering as a nation is due to religion and the desire of "christians" to inflict abuse upon people who don't believe the same way they do. Having grown up in that, I have firsthand experience with the "repent or die" attitude that Republicans have about liberals. And, well, they know we're not going to repent, so it's time for us all to die. They've had just about enough of allowing other people to go about their lives and live them they way they see fit. It is, for some reason, very onerous to them, the knowledge that other people might be living "outside of the will of god," whatever that even means. And, especially, the thought that two men might be off having sex together somewhere drives "good christian men" crazy.

Basically, we are, as a nation, suffering from religious abuse and have been for... well, probably since the First Great Awakening but assuredly since the Fourth. I would say since the First, but the abuse changed in tone during the Fourth, switching from what I would call a personal abuse model preached and taught by the church for more than 200 years (beginning in the early 1700s) then switching to a more institutional model of abuse beginning in the 1960s. As with all abuse, the result is trauma. We are a nation being torn apart by religious trauma.